Fernanda Gomes is a Brazilian artist who still produces and exhibits works now. Her work is very informed by the space she is exhibiting in and often will work within the space to create (she calls them ‘things’). The style is very minimalistic, using only the colour white as an intervention onto found objects or constructed items. I am most interested in her display technique which as mentioned relies heavily on the space itself. She is able to acutely articulate the space, the placements are so subtle, aided by its lack of colour it provokes thought on the nature of materials. I feel that this way of working heightens the properties of the materials, the use of the white paint acts as a control substance with which we are all familiar, in order for us to successfully compare this with the other material (this she will never fully paint).
These two books discuss the idea of ‘Formless’. My understanding of this concept is a declassification of forms. A method of description which can be applied to something that is simultaneously inside the ‘system’ but also outside of it, or references something outside of it. This idea originated with Bataille, who writes about it in terms of class strata and philosophy of language. Bois and Krauss attempted to use this writing by Bataille to identify art works that fit into this theory. The book ‘Formless: A User’s Guide’ is an accompanying publication to an exhibition of the pieces they have selected under the umbrella of Formless. I am hoping to use the ideas discussed in these texts in my practice, to broaden its scope and anchor it in relevant ideas that have been discussed and continue to be. I want to enter into this discourse, perhaps I cannot add to it but I can comment and reference these ideas to develop and expand my works.
These headings are from the Formless exhibition at the Pompidou Centre, I read the accompanying publication by Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss who co-curated. It was a very enlightening book and helped me to unpack formless theory after reading Bataille’s initial writings on the subject.
pertaining to gravity, assuming an erect viewer
Base Materialism –
that which is other, undermine traditional hierarchies
Time, movement and repetition
Inevitable social decline and degeneration
Having read Formless theory, my concept developed and this required a change in medium and direction. Previously working with literal abstract forms lead to research into formless concept which was totally removed from sculpture and physical form. It is a theoretical idea about a specific ‘thing’ which functions both within and outside of society and established norms, simultaneously. Examples were class stratums and the origin of the middle class and bourgeoisie. When an exhibition was put together in the Pompidou centre on Formless, the publication attached to this event explained it using Manet’s Olympia. A work that at the same time as conforming to the current obsession with reclined nude paintings it was the polar opposite because it represented a real person and a particular profession neither of which had anything to do with classical mythology.
In relation to my work I decided to move away from the physical and concentrate on the metaphysical and developing my concept in relation to the research previously mentioned. Video art and installation invited more scope to present several ideas at once. I researched Tony Oursler because he creates mini environments and sculptural pieces that work together with projection. I was exploring projection as a direction in my work because of its intangibility. It is particularly interesting how the two mediums work together in his pieces, each informing the other, one providing shape and size the other providing context and animation.
I followed onto reading this book from the Formless literature I had previously read. By identifying my formless ‘character’, a homeless person, it became apparent that not only do these characteristics make them formless but it also makes them abject. The abject, I have learnt, can appear in several forms. It can be something repulsive to us; dirt, mould, bodily waste etc, but not only are they disgusting to us they are also out of place. The reason we find them disgusting is because of where we find them, if they are too close to us, we happen upon them in a place we did not expect to find them. Not only that but they are opposed to us, opposite, something other than myself. These aspects make up the abject, and can be applied to several things. In this case my idea of a homeless person is abject because they are opposite to ‘us’, I am not suggesting a sense of disgust as with the previous examples but rather more to do with our perception of them as other. Kristeva discusses also a kind of fascination or connection to the abject as well, something I could explore further with these works. This links again with perception, which can be vary between individuals, I will explore this idea further with research into the ‘gaze’, specifically writings by Lacan and others in the book ‘Reading Images’, this shall be discussed in a separate post.
Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller
This work in particular ‘Conversation/Interrogation’ became a huge influence in relation to my research on the Gaze. Specifically the reciprocal nature of seeing and the confrontation with ones own external image. Miller creates this in this piece by inter-splicing images of the viewer within footage of an interview. This harsh and sudden reminder of our own capability of being viewed is significant in todays media culture and especially in understanding the self we project and other peoples relationship to that. I am working on recreating a similar experience in my own work.
The Gaze was a term coined by Lacan. I read about this concept in the book Reading Images which also contains texts by Foucault on the Panopticon and an interesting text by Zizek on the triad of the gaze. Lacan explains that the gaze is more than just viewing it has a reciprocal nature. By the very fact that we are seeing means that we have also the capability to be seen as well. He elaborates on the mirror stage to demonstrate this, it is an early developmental period during infancy when a child first becomes aware of their external image. Lacan infers this has social implications and political parallels when analysed in later life. For me I was very interested in the external image especially in the context of todays media culture. However I focused mainly on the reciprocal aspect of seeing, the duality of seeing and be seen simultaneously. I wanted to explore how this happens daily when it is easy to forget our external image and become absorbed within ourselves and forget our outward projection. In my work I want to create an awareness of our own image as well as drawing attention to other peoples.
untitled (woman in blue weeping)
These works by Biswas I am interested in purely for presentation. Her work centres around culture and feminism. She works with several different mediums but I focused on her pieces that involved video. The first piece from her Synapse Series shows her own naked body with images of Indian temples projected onto her skin. The second work is a video piece of a woman crying, it has been exhibited several times often using glass which subtly displays a reflection as well as the piece itself.
This piece by Dryden Goodwin called ‘Scene’, is a projection piece shown on the outside of the gallery. It depicts blurred images that were taken of people through their windows at night. This piece unlike the gaze involves unobserved seeing but most interestingly to me puts the viewer in the position of the other, this repositioning is something I intend to recreate with my work.
This artist Diana Thater often works with video and uses projection to make large pieces often taking up a whole wall or room. This particular piece ‘orange room (wallflower)’ uses the corner of the room to distort and change the angle of the work. I have experimented with this is my practice.
I was most interested in the presentation of Rist’s work. Layering, distorting and moving the projections creates a different visual experience when viewing. Her work is often on a quite large scale as well, this makes the work appear overwhelming, especially in conjunction with the bright colours and different presentation techniques she uses. At the moment I have been focusing on human scale but I will investigate and experiment with the possibility of altering the size of my work.